If Necessary

February 4, 2023

“In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 1:6 NAS95) 

Why do bad things happen to good people? This is an age-old question that mankind has wrestled with for millennia. We might sharpen the question and ask, “Why do bad things happen to God’s people?” If we are children of God, why do bad things happen to us? Why doesn’t God choose to protect us from all the suffering in this life? 

This passage shows us that sometimes it is necessary that the people of God face trials. Why would God ever deem suffering necessary? Because trials that come upon us, if we keep looking to the Lord, will cause us to grow in our faith. As Peter says, trials prove our faith. Trials refine and purify our faith just as fire refines gold. When we learn to lean on God through our trials, we will find that we are spiritually strengthened. 

There is no doubt that trials can be very painful, and yet here is a powerful picture of joy mingled with pain. The Christians that Peter is writing to are suffering. They are distressed. They are going through fiery trials of suffering for Christ (1 Peter 4:12-13), and yet they simultaneously have a great joy. They are greatly rejoicing even though they are distressed by various trials. What is the source of this joy? It is everything that Peter reminded the saints of in the previous verses. Take a look at 1 Peter 1:3-5. They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they have been born again to a living hope in Christ. They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they have an inheritance reserved for them in heaven—an inheritance that is “imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away.” They greatly rejoice, even in trials, because they are protected by God through faith for a salvation that will one day be revealed to them. 

Yes, it is necessary that we face trials in this life. Are you going through a season of trial right now? Hold on to the Lord! He will never leave you or forsake you! If you will cling to Him in faith and reflect on His promises, even in the midst of suffering He can cause you to “…greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…” (1 Peter 1:8b NAS95) 

—Scott Colvin 

The Bruise

September 16, 2021

I bruised myself. It was a deep purple bruise, the size of a half dollar on the inside of my right wrist. I wasn’t aware at the time, but I think I know what I was doing when I got it. Three days later I broke the fifth metatarsal bone in my left foot.

It took a week before I saw the orthopedic doctor for my foot. Although my foot hurt some, it was my right knee that was the most painful from walking as to protect my foot. I saw the orthopedic doctor in about a week and viewed the damage in an X-ray. He even took an X-ray of my old arthritic knee. An injection in my right knee helped that pain to go away in a few days. I was put in a boot for the duration. The bruise didn’t seem to get better for about two weeks. During that time I was pretty laid up with my foot and knee. The pain lessened at the end of my second week.

Then the bruise began to heal. It was slow at first, and then the evidence of the bruise began to disappear. And then the bruise was gone. I took comfort in the bruise. It was evidence of the God-given, healing properties of my body. The healing I could see on my wrist, I could trust was also going on in my foot.

Five weeks after the break, I am out of the boot with pain as my guide to activities. I saw the second X-ray, and it was much different than the first one. It reminded me of the body’s marvelous ability to heal. I had a retired dentist friend who I used to visit. He would always greet me with Psalm 139:14 “… for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And the psalm is true.

The broken foot gave me a couple of difficult weeks with the pain. I’ve faced difficulties before. But I’m also aware of the many blessings even in those difficult weeks. You can take comfort even in a bruise.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV)

— Russ Holden

A Seriously Funny Story

February 8, 2013

It was a serious story told with a sense of humor. For the serious part, Peter was held in prison about to be executed by Herod Agrippa I. Security was tight. Herod had four squads of four soldiers each to take turns guarding Peter around the clock. Peter was in prison bound with chains sleeping between two guards, when an angel appeared. The chains fell from his hands. The angel instructed him to get dressed, put on his sandals, and follow him.

Peter thought he was seeing a vision. They passed by the first guard, then the second guard, and finally they were to the iron gate leading to the city. The gate opened for them automatically. When the angel left him, Peter realized that he had really been through a most unusual prison break. It was a humorous realization, but a serious situation to be on the run from Herod Agrippa and his soldiers.

Remaining free was also serous business, but the story continues with some humor. Peter went to the house of Mary. The servant girl, Rhoda, was so excited by Peter’s arrival, she left him standing in the street! So much for trying to remain out of the sight of the authorities. The people inside praying for Peter’s release were convinced that Rhoda had it wrong. “It is his angel,” they said. While all of this was going on, Peter continued to knock. When Peter was finally admitted to the prayer gathering, “they saw him and were amazed.”

We read the account and wonder: why didn’t they believe what they had been praying for had come true? They knew the reality of prayer is that we don’t always receive what we pray for. God is not a cosmic vending machine: insert earnest prayer and the requested answer immediately dispensed. The Apostle James had already been executed by Herod Agrippa. No doubt this same group had earnestly prayed for him. God doesn’t always answer prayers in the way we would choose.

Their faith is seen in praying even up to the eleventh hour. (God’s rescue of Peter was just in time delivery.) They did not doubt the importance of prayer even if they had an initial surprise of Peter actually being at the door. They did not doubt the importance of prayer even if previous prayers had not been answered in the way they wished.

We must pray in the same way. God has invited us to ask and to intercede for others. But this is a relationship, not magic. We trust that the heavenly Father knows how to give good gifts. We trust even when the answer is what we don’t want. God will grant the strength to cope. Luke could tell this story with good humor, because he trusted the God who is in ultimate control of history.

Necessary Trials

October 20, 2010

Peter acknowledges the reality and grief caused by trials (1 Peter 1:6). He makes an interesting observation about them with this phrase — “if necessary.” What are necessary trials?

What if we began each day with the opportunity to opt in our out of trials? My guess is that all of us would opt out. But many trials do not give us a choice. Illnesses and injuries are the kind of trials that once we have the problem, we can’t opt out of it. We must see the illness or injury through. It is like being on the first big hill of a roller coaster and saying, “I want off.” The only way off is to finish the ride.

But some trials do have an opt out possibility, and I think it is those trials with which Peter is concerned. They are the trials in which to stop the pain the Christian might be tempted to compromise or abandon his faith. Peter provides us with a number of scenarios in his letter that fit these situations.

Peter pictures Christians who are slandered (2:15), mistreated (2:18, 3:17), and maligned (4:4). He uses the example of Christ’s suffering to prepare these Christians for their own trials (2:21, 3:18, 4:1). He warns them “do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you” (4:12).

So what is a necessary trial? It is one in which to be true to our faith and to Jesus, we must suffer the trial. We must do good even if someone is doing evil to us. We must not revile if reviled. Evil is overcome by good not by returning evil in kind. We must maintain the integrity of our faith at all costs.

What happens when we endure trials with faith? Peter compares our faith to gold that is tested in the fire. When gold is put in the fire, what is really gold remains, the impurities are burned off. Such testing proves gold’s genuineness, but it also makes it more pure. The same thing happens to faith when it is tested by trials. Faith that can face the test is genuine faith. Faith that is tested is stronger, purer faith.

None of this sounds pleasant, but Peter reminds us that trials are temporary — “for a little while” (1:6). Trials may have seasons to them. I trust God to prevent me from being tempted beyond what I can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). But anything we experience in this life is temporary in comparison to eternity. Heaven is worth it all.

May our faith be found genuine when faced with necessary trials.

Wrapped In Hope

October 14, 2010

Peter wrote to Christians in Asia Minor who were experiencing trials. They were like “exiles” (1:1) in their own home towns. They felt the tension of being in the world but not of the world. Interestingly enough, Peter’s first discussion of trials in this letter is wrapped in a message about hope.

Hope deals with what is yet unseen. It is more than just wishful thinking as we will see, but it still deals with what has not yet arrived on the scene. (See 1 Peter 1:8) We love Jesus even though we do yet see him. We rejoice even though the salvation of our souls has not yet completely arrived. Hope aids us on our journey into the unknown. Without hope, we might be overwhelmed with discouragement and be defeated by the Evil One.

Although hope leads us into the unseen, hope is grounded in something very sure. The basis of hope is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (See 1 Peter 1:3) I trust in the historicity of that event — Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection — because of the eyewitness testimony. I am convinced by the great transformation of their lives. Even the persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, was converted. Old Testament prophecies pointed to this event. Historical sources outside the New Testament confirm the basic storyline of the narrative. The message of Jesus provides the basis of my hope.

Hope also has security. What we hope for is guarded in heaven. It is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. (See 1 Peter 1:4) I have witnessed on TV the destruction of the tallest buildings in our land. Vandals have defaced important places, and I’ve seen the ravages of time bring fading glory to special places in my life. But my inheritance will experience none of those things. It is guarded by God.

But this security has a second part. Christians are also guarded by God through faith. (See 1 Peter 1:5) The fact that we are guarded through faith means that the protection continues only as long as we continue in faith. Yes, I can fall away from God, but that doesn’t minimize the protection. I know that I won’t be tempted beyond what I can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). I believe God will provide the strength for me to face all situations (Philippians 4:13). And I know that no one can take my inheritance from me (Romans 8:37-39).

Trials are real and painful (1 Peter 1:6-7). Yet they are not the last word. Peter’s message about trials is wrapped in hope.